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Gone in a Heartbeat:

Our Daughters Died … Our Faith Endures

By David and Mari Works

The door opened. Pastor Brady motioned with his arm, and in walked four people. Ron Murray was a tall, slender man with light-colored hair. He obviously had been crying. His head was down; I could hardly see his eyes.

The same was true of his wife, Loretta. Her shoulders were slightly slumped as she walked forward in her burgundy blazer with dark-colored blouse and pants. She came in behind her husband, a look of pained sorrow in her eyes and a posture of heavy shame. She struggled to hold her head up to greet us as they moved into the room.

Just behind Loretta was her brother-in-law, Philip Abeyta — the family’s pastor from Denver — and the Murrays’ other son, Christopher. He was a handsome young man, well-dressed and seemingly self-confident. I could hardly imagine him being Matthew’s brother.

Ron Murray reached out his hand toward David as he said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. We feel so terrible about what our son did to your family.”

David took his hand and, instead of shaking it, began pulling Ron toward him as he announced, “No, that’s not what we’re going to do.” He stretched out his arms for both Ron and Loretta, while I joined them in a fervent embrace. I felt Laurie’s and Grace’s arms encircling us too — two families united by a common tragedy. Together we cried. Waves of grief and remorse but also redemption seemed to soak our very hearts and minds for several minutes.

“It’s okay,” we blubbered through our tears. “We forgive you.” We continued to cling to one another while the pastors and others in the room stood  respectfully at a distance. Our tearful huddle went on for a long, long time. This was a cleansing we all badly needed. We let the emotions of the past four weeks come flooding out of us onto one another’s shoulders. It was a holy moment.

Eventually David regained enough composure to say, “You know, it’s tough what we’re going through — but really, Marie and I wouldn’t want to be walking your path right now. You’ve got it a lot harder than we do.”

“Well, we didn’t come expecting forgiveness,” Ron Murray replied, “but only to say how sorry we are for the loss of your two precious daughters. Just terribly, terribly sorry. ...”

“There’s a verse in the Bible that just came to me,” David continued. “I don’t know where it is, but I think it says something like, ‘Mercy overshadows judgment.’8 God’s mercy is enough for us all today. It’s a lot more important right now than judgment. You don’t need to be under any kind of condemnation at all.”

More hugs, more tears, more Kleenex.

I looked at this broken mother and felt afresh the pain that every mother  feels when her best efforts fall short of producing the child she wanted. I knew I hadn’t been a perfect mom myself, and yet Stephanie’s and Rachel’s lives had turned out to be a blessing. Loretta Murray could only yearn for this kind of fulfillment. I felt so sorry for her in that moment.

Excerpted from Gone in a Heartbeat by David and Marie Works, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2009, David and Marie Works.  All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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